Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte once again warned on Tuesday that he would attack God if anyone invoked his name against him, less than a day after the president had come to an agreement with Philippine Catholic leaders to stop assailing the religion of most of his country.
About 83 percent of Philippine nationals are Catholic, and another nearly 9 percent belong to other Christian sects, meaning that over 90 percent of the country identifies as Christian. Despite this, Duterte has never shied away from criticizing the Catholic Church and has repeatedly accused a Catholic priest of molesting him as a boy.
On Tuesday, Duterte initially limited his criticism somewhat, targeting missionaries and clergy rather than God himself. Duterte objected to missionaries entering the country and criticizing him. “Do not give me something like, you’re a tourist here, then you come here under the cloak of what religion, and start to blabber your mouth and attack us,” Duterte said, according to the Philippine outlet Rappler.
“Do not include your God in your platform of your criticism in your attack because when I attack, if you include God in the issue, son of a bitch, I’ll get back at that God,” he added, insisting, “There is a separation of powers. Why are you fucking … [sic] the name of the Lord against me?”
Duterte added that he “cannot see” the Christian God, “but in this world, I can see Hell. This is where I will kill those sons of a bitch.”
Apparently referring to drug criminals, Duterte added, “I said do not destroy my country because I will really kill you. Do not destroy the young, our children.”
Duterte’s remarks follow a tempestuous couple of weeks with the Philippine Catholic Church that appeared to have come to a temporary end on Monday. Duterte met with the head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Romulo Valles, and the two reportedly “agreed to a moratorium on statements about the Church,” according to Duterte spokesman Harry Roque. His remarks against missionaries occurred less than 24 hours after the announcement of the moratorium, which Duterte appeared to try to keep by not naming the Catholic Church specifically.
Duterte also posted a video on the Presidential Communications Operations Office Facebook page apologizing to the Christian God directly.
“If it’s the same God, I’m sorry, that’s how it is. Sorry, God,” Duterte said. “I said sorry, God. If God is taken in a generic term by everybody listening then that’s well and good.”
Duterte was quick to clarify: “I only apologize to God and nobody else.”
The nation’s religious community appeared receptive to his apology, according to the Philippine Star.
“I can only thank God for enlightening our President to make that humble apology,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said. “It shouldn’t matter much if it was my God or his God he is apologizing to, because there is only one God of the universe anyway. I know there are firm God believers like me supporting his presidency who can now get over the dilemma of whether or not to continue supporting his leadership.”
The nation’s Catholic bishops had called for nationwide fasting and prayer shortly before his apology in an attempt to divert Duterte from continuing his onslaught.
The general public may have agreed with the offended clergymen. A poll by the firm Social Weather Stations taken last week after Duterte’s remarks found an 11-point drop in his approval rating, giving him his worst approval rating ever. While SWS still described his ratings as “good,” the firm did note the steep decline in support.
Duterte’s office responded to the news by insisting that his ratings are still “not bad.”
“The people are still satisfied,” spokesman Harry Roque told reporters, adding, “Our President does not govern for the ratings. He is fulfilling his promise and his promise is simple: anti-corruption, anti-illegal drugs and a more comfortable life for everyone.”